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Cataract Surgery Recovery Time: How to Prepare, What to Expect

Pre-operative preparations for cataract surgery are only half the story, it is important to also understand and plan for the recovery process after surgery.

While diligence is required during post-cataract surgery recovery, the recovery time after surgery is nothing compared to the lifetime of good vision ahead of you. And if you know what to expect after cataract surgery, you can minimize complications and speed up healing time. You may even qualify for “dropless” cataract surgery, a new procedure that makes recovery even easier.

Recovering from Dropless Cataract Surgery

One of the latest advancements in cataract surgery is eye-dropless surgery. Typically, two or more eye drops are prescribed after surgery to protect your eye from infection and inflammation. These drops need to be used 3-4 times a day for four weeks. With cataract surgery, however, the necessary medications are placed inside your eye at the time of the procedure, eliminating the need for post-operative eye drops.

With dropless cataract surgery, there are:

  • NO confusion about which drops to use or when
  • NO struggling through arthritis pain to squeeze eye drop bottles
  • NO eye-drop-related discomfort on the surface of your eye
  • NO worries about forgetting to use eye drops or using them incorrectly
  • NO pharmacy co-pays for post-op eye drops

Dropless cataract surgery is available to most patients considering traditional cataract surgery, except for those with glaucoma, a history of a reaction to steroids, or a high risk of inflammation. An eye surgeon can tell you more about the procedure and decide if you are a candidate for dropless cataract surgery.

How Long is the Recovery from Cataract Surgery?

The recovery time for cataract surgery is short. Any soreness and discomfort should disappear within a couple of days. However, depending on the nature and size of your cataracts and your physiology and ability and heal, full recovery could take anything from four weeks to six weeks. It’s important to follow all post-surgery care instructions and keep your follow-up visits with your doctor.

How to Prepare for a Successful Recovery After Cataract Surgery

1. Designate Transportation After Surgery

After the procedure, you’ll be sedated, and the eye will be bandaged, limiting your vision. You won’t be in pain, but you won’t be able to drive either. Ask a friend or a family member to drive you to and from your surgery, as well as anywhere else you need to go for at least 24 hours.

2. Do Your Heavy Lifting Pre-Surgery

Walking and light housework are fine, but your doctor may suggest that you avoid lifting and bending for up to a week after surgery. Put off any intense physical projects until after you’ve completely recovered from surgery.

3. Prepare Meals for a Couple of Weeks

It’s normal to feel fatigued and lethargic after surgery. If you’re accustomed to cooking, you may find it’s too strenuous while you’re still in healing mode. Give yourself a break and cook your meals ahead of time before your surgery, or buy pre-cooked meals from the store that don’t require a lot of preparation.

4. Stay out of Swimming Pools for at Least One Week

Pools can be breeding grounds for disease, the last thing your eye needs after healing from cataract surgery. If you’re a frequent swimmer, take a break for at least a week after surgery to give your eye time to heal. You should also avoid saunas and hot tubs during this time as well.

5. Follow Your Doctor’s Instructions

Recovery after cataract surgery is mostly a solo affair, but your eye doctor is still involved.

Your doctor will schedule follow-up appointments to ensure your eye is healing properly. Regularly take the drops your doctor prescribes to you—unless you elect to have dropless cataract surgery performed instead.

Have your eye surgeon’s phone number handy and call if you notice:

  • Your eyesight getting worse
  • A change in your field of vision
  • Increasing eye pain
  • No reduction in redness or swelling
  • Discharge from your eye
  • Strange flashes of light in your vision

When Can You Resume Exercise After Cataract Surgery

Refrain from strenuous physical activity for at least a week or so after cataract surgery. In addition to increasing your chances of injury due to impaired vision, activities that can increase your eye pressure and the pressure in your head, such as bending down, could increase your risk of developing complications. Avoid high-intensity exercises, heavy lifting (anything over 20lbs), and activities that increase your risk of infection (see the section on swimming above).

After a few days, you may be able to resume light activity, such as walking if cleared by your doctor. And after three to four weeks, you should be able to resume your regular exercise routine.

Educate Yourself and Talk to an Expert

Cataract surgery requires planning for what happens before and after. If you want to learn more about the cataract surgery process, our blog about what to expect during cataract surgery will educate you on the process and put your mind at ease beforehand.


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